More than 30,000 people are suing Texas Governor Greg Abbott over his early cessation of $300-per-week supplemental federal unemployment payments for state residents during the pandemic.
The group of plaintiffs organized through Facebook groups created to help unemployed Texans navigate the state’s bureaucracy to claim benefits. They argue in the suit that Abbott did not have the authority to end the payments from the federal government, the Houston Chronicle reported. Abbott decided to decline the benefits beginning June 26th, even though the federal government has them scheduled to continue through at least September 6th. The federal payments were also going to gig workers and self-employed Texans who are not eligible for the state’s unemployment benefits.
The suit claims that Abbott “exceeded his power” when he halted the federal unemployment payments. Abbott justified the move by claiming they were no longer necessary as the state’s economy recovered from the pandemic.
“The number of job openings in Texas is almost identical to the number of Texans who are receiving unemployment benefits,” Abbott said in a statement, pushing the Republican talking point that people are incentivized by the additional funds to stay on unemployment instead of seeking full-time jobs. But a Morgan Stanley analysis, reported by Axios, said the benefits “are likely no more of a factor than other impediments to workplace re-entry,” such as the rising costs of child care, transportation and health care.
The plaintiffs crowdfunded to hire attorney David Sibley and filed a suit this past week in Austin’s state district court. “Texas has what is known as a weak governor and a large part of Texas is run by commissions,” Sibley told the Chronicle’s Rebecca Carballo. “We just believe the governor is acting outside of his authority, and it’s something the TWC (Texas Workforce Commission) should address.”
Allowing the TWC to consider the decision could end in the same result — the cessation of benefits — the suit acknowledges, but it would at least delay its implementation. As many as 24 other states have also opted to end the federal supplemental unemployment benefits early, with a number of them stopping the benefits in June and July.
The groups also filed a temporary restraining order to postpone the halt in benefits while their suit was underway, but a judge rejected it on Friday while also remarking that he had concerns regarding the group’s standing to sue.